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US calls Syria referendum 'absolutely cynical'

28 february 2012, 18:35
Victoria Nuland. ©AFP
Victoria Nuland. ©AFP
The United States on Monday dismissed Syria's referendum for a new constitution as "absolutely cynical," after a nearly year-long government crackdown that has left thousands of its citizens dead, AFP reports.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland asked how "any kind of democratic process" could take place while Syrian government guns, tanks and artillery were still firing into Homs and other cities.

"We dismiss it (the referendum) as absolutely cynical," Nuland said of the balloting praised Sunday as a historic breakthrough by President Bashar al-Assad, but which Washington and its allies dismissed as a farce.

"Essentially what he's done here is put a piece of paper that he controls to a vote that he controls so that he can try to maintain control," Nuland said.

"Even the referendum that they put forward is ridiculous in the sense that it requires that the state approve any of these patriotic opposition groups. So he's going to hand pick who gets to be in the opposition and who doesn't," she said.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said on MSNBC television that the referendum made a "mockery of the aspirations of the Syrian people."

Syrians' vote on Sunday for a new constitution came almost a year after widespread anti-government protests inspired by so-called Arab Spring revolts elsewhere in the region.

Syria said Monday that almost 90 percent of voters approved a new constitution in the referendum.

The text of the new constitution ended the legal basis for the five-decade stranglehold on power of the ruling Baath party, but left extensive powers in Assad's hands.

The opposition said the changes are cosmetic after nearly a year of repression by Assad's security forces that human rights groups say have left more than 7,600 people dead.

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